Why not RTI hearings on video conferencing?

By Sant Kumar Sharma

Jammu, June 27, 2016:
Some days ago, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) was requested to ask other Information Commissioners (ICs) to hear RTI cases through video conferencing. This was basically because some ICs call public authorities and complaints located outside Delhi to appear before them.
They do not allow complaints or public authorities to appear before them through use of this facility. This compels these people to travel to Delhi and entails considerable expenses. Of course, leaving their stations unmanned.
Where is the need for bearing these expenses charged on exchequer? There are also officers who fail to respond to emails and that leads to problems, for complainants.
This act of not responding on emails is irresponsible, and can be curbed. If the government decides to come down hard on such officials. It needs to take corrective measures against these practices.
The CIC has expressed his inability or unwillingness to ask other ICs to adopt video conferencing as a way out. This forcing the officials to appear before them leads to unnecessary expenditure.
All the officials need to do is mark themselves “on tour” to comply with the directions of the ICs. They can remain where they are based if video conferencing is provided, and allowed by all ICs.
Interestingly, of late, it can be said that ICs are usually pro-active on issues. Their orders are speaking and logical orders which are leading to new rational thinking.
The verdicts of the ICs, including the CIC, can point out the wasteful expenditure being incurred. They can even order deduction of the costs of unnecessary tours from the salaries of public authorities.
Perhaps this will act as a huge deterrent and officials will learn to behave themselves.
Recovering the costs of wasteful expenditure incurred on unnessary tour expenses will be a novel step. It is unlikely that public at large will oppose such penalties against officials.
May be, the CIC and the DOPT can consider the issue seriously and prepare a study report. The study report can perhaps be a compilation of officials travelling to Delhi when video conferencing facilities were available to them.
The study report can perhaps focus on public money and time wasted by officials on tours. When they could have easily availed the video conferencing facilities and avoided the expenditure.
The DOPT can perhaps also focus on the erring officials, and find a way of taking them to task. Adverse entries in their records can be one way of discouraging the officials from undertaking unnecessary journeys, thereby saving money of the exchequer.